Since its launch in 1999 the Skoda Fabia has been inextricably linked to the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo, sharing its chassis, engines and more with the other two VW group superminis.
While the VW has always been the “premium” model and Seat the youthful one, the Fabia (surprising vRS models asides) has sat somewhere in the middle.
Across all three generations it’s been the mature, value-led choice and that’s a position it still occupies.
Skoda Fabia SE
Price: £15,160 (£16,490 as tested)
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 106g/km
It’s mature in a couple of ways. First off – despite a big facelift last year – the Fabia is relatively long in the tooth. Its Polo and Ibiza cousins are now based on the new MQB A0 platform while the Fabia soldiers on with the previous generation setup.
The other two VW Group superminis are also fresher and more youthful in appearance and feel. There’s no bodycoloured dashboard or fancy exterior colours for the Fabia and the biggest screen you can have is 6.5 inches. But the Fabia still projects a grown-up feeling with the refinement and robustness of a larger car.
It’s a common-sense sort of machine. There’s nothing flashy or particularly clever about it but it’s very good at doing what it needs to do and it’s at least £3,000 cheaper than an Ibiza, Fiesta or Polo.
Last year’s updates did bring more technology and features to the Fabia, so all models now get front assist autonomous emergency braking, LED daytime running lights and a multifunction trip computer.
Our SE-spec car is a step up from the £12,255 entry-level S so also features 15-inch alloys, air conditioning, DAB radio, smartphone connectivity, rear parking sensors and front fog lights. We also had the optional but excellent Amundsen touchscreen with nav – a £570 extra.
Moving from S to SE spec also opens up the full range of engine options. The Fabia is petrol-only with 74bhp, 94bhp and 108bhp versions of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI unit.
Our 94bhp version felt pleasantly lively, with more than enough vim to get the Fabia moving along, although an 11-second 0-62mph time isn’t going to worry Fiesta ST owners.
For anyone doing mostly city driving the 74bhp version might well prove enough while the 108bhp one, with its option of a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox seems almost like overkill.
Compared with the likes of the Ford Fiesta, the Fabia has never been a driver’s car but it handles and rides well around town while feeling solid and secure on faster A roads and motorways.
Its big-car feel is emphasised by a relatively spacious interior for the class, with good rear leg and head room and a 330l boot.
The Fabia is slightly in the shadow of other superminis. The Ibiza and Polo are more youthful and refined, and the Fiesta is still among the best on the market.
But the Fabia shouldn’t be discounted. It is a solid, competent and comfortable hatchback and, starting at more than £3,000 cheaper than any of those three, it’s a sensible option for drivers looking for a good-value grown-up choice.